The psychosocial needs of NSW court defendants

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Release Date: Wednesday, 9 May 2007, 10.30am

A pilot study of 189 defendants in the Blacktown and Newcastle Local Courts by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found that 55 per cent reported one or more signs of psychiatric disorder.

Of those who reported a psychiatric disorder, three-quarters also met the criteria for dependent or disordered substance use. The most common substances mentioned were alcohol, cannabis and amphetamines.

Nearly one in three had no education or vocational training beyond year 10 at school.

Sixty-three per cent were on welfare at the time of their court appearance. Forty-four per cent had moved address at least once in the past 12 months.

Fifteen per cent of the sample reported that they had a gambling problem.

Fifty-one per cent reported having at some stage in their life received a blow to the head that caused a dazed or confused state.

Forty-five per cent reported having at some stage in their life received a blow that caused loss of consciousness.

Commenting on these findings the Director of the Bureau said they were consistent with other research, conducted by NSW Health, showing high rates of psychiatric and substance abuse disorder among the prison population.

"Dealing with these problems is absolutely essential if we want to reduce the risk of further offending", he said.

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn 9231-9190 (w) 0419-494-408 (mob).